Edge of Eternity: Book Three of the Century Trilogy
The long-awaited third installment of Ken Follett’s tour de force trilogy of the 20th century lives up to the expectations of followers of this fascinating saga of the world at peace and war during the turbulent years between 1914 and 1989.
The families from the coal fields and earldoms of Wales and London, the streets and palaces of Moscow and St. Petersburg, Berlin, Warsaw, New York, Washington and Hollywood --- whom we first met at the outbreak of World War I and the Russian Revolution --- have flourished and borne children and grandchildren throughout the decades. Now we meet their progeny, who have gone on to politics, movies, rock and roll, and commerce. They have risen and fallen with the times in the USSR and the Eastern Bloc, England and America. In the first two absorbing novels, FALL OF GIANTS and WINTER OF THE WORLD, we followed them through World War II and Korea.
"Perhaps we can look forward to a fourth novel in the future. One can only hope that Follett, at a youthful and productive 65 years of age, will continue to thrill us --- and is taking notes as our present unfolds to become our past."
EDGE OF ETERNITY opens on the cusp of the turbulent 1960s. Civil rights, Vietnam, civil disobedience, the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassinations of JFK, his brother, Bobby, and Martin Luther King Jr. --- all are brought sharply into focus through the eyes of the characters we have followed through generations, becoming prominent players in each of these events. Follett’s intensive research serves to re-open, for those of us old enough to have experienced these later years, vivid recollections of where we were and what we were doing during each world-changing event. He moves us through the Nixon, Carter and Reagan years, Nicaragua, the Iranian hostage situation, and much more.
If the reader, as am I, is fortunate enough to have parents and grandparents who were alive during that 75-year time span, Follett gives an inside perspective into the historical events and their main players. He also, thankfully, provides a Cast of Characters at the beginning of the book to help refresh us with the relationships to the original thrilling cast laid forth in FALL OF GIANTS.
A word here about Follett’s prior spy thrillers and historical novels. He first headed the bestseller lists in 1978 with CAPRICORN ONE and EYE OF THE NEEDLE as a spy thriller novelist, followed by THE KEY TO REBECCA. When PILLARS OF THE EARTH catapulted to the top of the charts, it was later produced as a TV mini-series in 2010. His narrative skills and rich characterizations have kept PILLARS at the top of favorite reads for millions of readers for decades. His spy thrillers and historical novels have continued to top the bestseller lists for over 35 years. The Century Trilogy is arguably his most ambitious project, spanning nearly a century of research and writing.
Each main character is vividly drawn with no tedious rehash of incidents or storylines. Follett skillfully intertwines and refreshes readers to reacquaint us with family and prior events. This can be tricky in the hands of a less capable author, but Follett stands alongside the best historical fiction writers of our time.
The book ends with the fall of the Iron Curtain and the emotional reuniting of families divided through the 70-year reign of Communism. It leaves us yearning for a fourth installment covering the tumultuous events of the 1990s through 9/11 and the continuing war on terror. However, history is about the past, and the present is all too real and unpredictable to write a retrospective. Perhaps a fictional historian cannot write about history in the making, especially one fraught with international terrorism, global warming and the déjà vu of rising racial unrest. That is one of the intriguing twists of this most recent volume: Perhaps the more things change, the more they stay the same. And maybe that also explains the puzzling title “EDGE OF ETERNITY.” What else is out there waiting in the wings? Follett does not prognosticate --- he ends the book with an epilogue as one of the extended families watches the inauguration of Barack Obama.
Perhaps we can look forward to a fourth novel in the future. One can only hope that Follett, at a youthful and productive 65 years of age, will continue to thrill us --- and is taking notes as our present unfolds to become our past.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on September 19, 2014